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Extractive Industries and Sustainable Development

The Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment believes that the challenges of poverty alleviation, environmental sustainability and governance should be addressed in an effective sustainability framework for foreign investment. The shared goal for companies, host-country governments and civil society is an investment framework that promotes sustainable development and the mutual trust needed for long-term investments. The extractive industries face a special need for such trust, given the massive long-term investments that they undertake in poor and potentially unstable countries. For investors to succeed and for host-countries to reap the potential benefits of such investments, a mutually agreeable sustainable investment framework should last for decades and accommodate unexpected shocks that will arise during the lifetime of the investments. 

The VCC is undertaking research to provide resources and tools for an effective framework, focusing on the challenges of governance (e.g. fair and efficient negotiations, contracts, policy and planning framework, the long-term economic relationship of companies and communities, sound resource management), infrastructure development (e.g. concession arrangements for shared platforms, corridor development), economic diversification (e.g. industrial policy, training, local procurement), environmental management (e.g. climate change resilience and adaptation, avoidance and management of catastrophic environmental events), and integrated rural development (e.g. promoting economic development at the community and country levels).

This program consists of a number of interrelated projects:

  • Working with students and faculty at Columbia Law School, the Earth Institute, the School for International and Public Affairs, the Business School and other schools at Columbia University, the VCC is undertaking qualitative and quantitative research to bolster the framework and to assist policy-makers, corporate executives and other stakeholders make informed decisions in their respective activities. Research streams include analyses of how to maximize the employment impacts of natural resource investments, innovative models for infrastructure concessions, tools for optimizing competitive bidding procedures, the impacts on corporate performance of disclosures of payments to governments, and cumulative impact assessments of competing land and water uses in vulnerable regions, among others. 
  • Designing masters-level courses and executive training courses to introduce current and future policy-makers to a holistic understanding of how investment in oil, mining and gas can be leveraged for sustainable development; the courses will be offered to Columbia students, and the trainings will be offered to practitioners and representatives from resource-rich countries.
  • Working with several governments, including those of MozambiqueTimor-Leste, Guinea and others, to undertake policy-oriented research and advising in the specific country contexts. In such contexts, the VCC works with the government, private sector, development partners and other stakeholders to propose a framework of actions by the government and its public and private partners to ensure that the host population reaps a major boost to economic development from its resource endowments, while also respecting the profitability of private-sector investments in these important projects. 
  • Coordinating a multistakeholder expert dialogue on how to strengthen the support for developing country governments in their negotiation of large complex projects with foreign investors in the oil and gas, mining, infrastructure, and other sectors. The VCC is working with the Humboldt-Viadrina School of Governance to convene a series of expert roundtables to assess whether and if so which potential mechanisms, tools and innovative solutions could usefully be provided to make comprehensive support available to developing country governments in order for them to secure the best possible deals, while remaining commercially viable.

  • Convening practicioners and scholars together to discuss practical approaches and solutions to resource-based sustainable development. The VCC has held two Conferences on Extractive Industries and Sustainable Development: 

For information about the Conference on "The Resource Boom and FDI in Africa: new players, new opportunities, a new agenda for development," held at Columbia University on October 26-27, 2011, click here.

For information about the Conference on “Extractive Industries and Sustainable Development: the challenge of implementation,” held at Columbia University on October 27-28, 2010, click here. Background notes prepared for this conference are available here.